The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a reasonable jury could find that a man’s actions in trying to prevent his girlfriend from using cocaine were disproportionate to the harm avoided if she had used the drug, thus putting an end to his defense of necessity claim. The judges upheld Gerald Clemons’ possession of cocaine conviction.
Police responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex involving Clemons and his girlfriend Kayla Conner. Police saw blood on the walls and handrail leading to the apartment and heard Clemons threatening to kill Conner through their apartment door. Once inside, officers saw blood throughout the apartment and found a bloodied Conner in the bathtub. The officers found cocaine in Clemons’ sock.
He was convicted of Class D felony possession of cocaine, but the judge reduced it to a Class A misdemeanor.
Clemons argued in Gerald Clemons v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1210-CR-587, that while he was in possession of the cocaine discovered in his sock, the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his possession of the drug was not justified by reason of necessity. He claimed that – and Conner testified at his trial to the same – that Conner wanted to use the drug and he was keeping it from her. The situation escalated as he tried to prevent her from using the drug, he argued.
But Clemons didn’t tell officers that he was holding it to keep Conner from using the drug, Conner was seriously injured by Clemons, and an officer heard Clemons threaten to kill her.
“Even if the jury believed that Clemons’s act of possession of the cocaine was to prevent Conner from using or abusing the drug, a reasonable jury could find, based upon the testimony and evidence presented, that there was an adequate alternative to Clemons’s actions, that the harm caused by his actions was disproportionate to the harm avoided, that Clemons did not have a good faith belief that his actions were necessary to prevent greater harm, that his belief that his actions were necessary was not objectively reasonable under all the circumstances, or that Clemons substantially contributed to the creation of the emergency,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.